Leonoor Zuiderveen Borgesius
My PhD project has the working title 'Engineering Emptiness: the Temporalities of Land Reclamation Practices in the Netherlands.' It deals with the ideologies and practices of civil engineers in the Netherlands and the Dutch empire between 1880 and 1930. I write specifically about how the planning, design and construction of large infrastructural works inform environmental knowledge production, and how that knowledge as well as the technocratic imaginaries of modernity and efficiency are shared within and formed by expert networks.
The rases that I research are the large-scale modernist land reclamation scheme (the engineering practice of creating land from sea- and fresh water) of the 'Zuiderzee Werken' that was designed and carried out between ca. 1880 and 1980. I am interested in the geographical and ecological design of those new lands, particularly when it comes to the imagery of new land as 'empty space' without cultural or natural histories.
The second case deals with the construction of the Lawa-railroad in colonial Suriname between 1902 and 1905. I look at the practices of knowledge production that preceded the construction of these large engineering works, its visual representations in the form of maps, and the ways in which the notion of empty, uninhabited space, connects overseas imperial imageries to practices of internal colonisation and land acquisition.
I have a research master in Historical Studies from Radboud University Nijmegen (the Netherlands). My main fields of interests are the Environmental Humanities, History of Concepts and Ideas and Science and Technology Studies.
For the academic year 2018/2019 I was based at the Center for Advanced Study (Senter for grunnforskning, CAS) as a fellow on the project In Sync: How Synchronization and Mediation Produce Collective Times, Then and Now.
The spring semester of 2020, I spent as a guest researcher at the Division for the History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH Royal Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. I was affiliated with the Environmental Humanities Laboratory.
My project is developed within the frame of the Toppforsk-project LIFETIMES: a Natural History of the Present, that deals with the entanglement of scales of life and scales of time in the Anthropocene.
Photo credit: Camilla Kottum Elmar